An Introduction to Adopting a Child
You can ask our solicitors for advice on adopting a child using the question box on the front of our website or the following article may answer your questions.
Adopting a child can be one of the best decisions that you will make. Once you have made the decision to adopt it is a lengthy and complex process. Anyone who is interested in adopting will have to go through a series of assessments to ensure that they are right for adoption and to verify that your home is a suitable place to raise a child.
There is a commonly held belief that adoption applications are declined for many different reasons however this is not the case. There are fewer reasons than what you may think for not adopting a child. The only stipulation is that you are over the age of 21 and you are a permanent resident within the UK.
An adoption application cannot be refused on the grounds of marital status, religion or income provided that you are financially stable enough to look after a child. In addition, you do not need to be in full time employment, be married or own your home. You can be self employed or unemployed and still be able to apply. Each case is assessed on its own unique merits.
Postponing the Adoption Process
Sometimes an adoption agency may review your circumstances and advise the applicant to wait for a period of time before you decide to formally apply for adoption.
This could be due to a whole range of reasons including:
- If you have recently undergone a course of IVF treatment
- You already have children at a very similar age to the child you are looking to adopt
- If you have recently embarked on a new relationship
- You do not have adequate living space for an additional child
- If you have just moved house
Furthermore, if you have recently suffered the loss of a child, the adoption agency will recommend that you take some time to come to terms with your bereavement and make sure that the decision is right for you and you make it at the right time before adopting a child.
Coping with bereavement can be an incredibly difficult time and coupled with the stresses of an adoption it can prove too much. Many agencies will have very specific guidelines which will allow them to identify whether a family home is suitable for an adopted child.
When you may not be eligible for adopting a child
There may be occasions where your application to adopt will be declined. Although this is rare, circumstances where applications are rejected typically include:
- If the applicant suffers from a physical or mental health issue
- If the applicant has certain criminal convictions
- If the applicant has had a child taken into care at any point in the past
Adopting a Child Application Process
After it has been determined that there are no barriers to becoming an adoptive parent, and provided that you wish to continue, you will need to contact your local adoption agency.
Local agencies can be found through an online search or by contacting Children’s Services at your local authority. The adoption application process can be lengthy because the agency need to be sure that you are suitable to adopt and your home and family are also suitable for adopting a child. This assessment will need to be made over a period of time.
Once you contact the local authority and notify them of your intention to adopt, you will be assigned a social worker who will get to know you and your partner (if this applies) usually over a period of several months. During this time, the social worker will undertake a number of visits to your home in order to learn about your home life, background and family.
You will be expected to complete a series of medical examinations and your family and medical history will be carefully evaluated.
At the end of this period, the adoption agency will have gathered enough information to create a Home Study Report which details their findings. This report will then be used to make a decision as to whether you are suitable adopting a child.
A decision will then be made by an adoption panel who will carefully review the Home Study Report and then issue their recommendations. The panel are completely independent so they can make an objective decision in relation to your suitability.
You may attend the panel meeting during the process of making a decision. If you are not approved for adopting a child, you can request that the agency reviews their decision.
If you receive approval at this stage you can then progress onto the actual adoption process. This part of the process will depend on who you wish to adopt. If you hope to adopt a baby you will be placed on a waiting list, but you must be aware that this could take a number of years. For older children, the adoption agency will use their own methods of matching applicants to children.
Proposals will need to be approved by an independent panel who will have the final decision as to whether you and the child are a suitable match. Sometimes you may wish to adopt a child that you already know, perhaps for example you are a step parent. In this instance, the local authority will evaluate the child’s relationship with their birth parent before making a decision.
You may wish to adopt a child that you have been fostering and the process can start from approximately 3 months after the child has been living in your home.
Where a child that you are adopting does not currently live with you, an adoption agency will initiate a process where you are gradually introduced to the child, working with social workers who will support the relationship in the early stages. The child will eventually move in with you and your family on a permanent basis.
Depending on certain circumstances and provided that the child has been living with you for a specific period of time, you may be able to apply to the court for an adoption order. This order makes the adoption legally binding and completes the process. In doing so, the parental rights and responsibilities of the child’s birth parent(s) are removed and they are assigned to the adoptive parents.
It is at this stage that adoption is complete and you have the same rights and responsibilities as you would have over a biological child. for adopting a child